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Former French First Lady Carla Bruni returns to music

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Carla Bruni plays at the Bay Area Cabaret at the Venetian Room on Feb. 23. (Courtesy Matthieu Zazzo)

At 50, Italian-born French chanteuse Carla Bruni has lived a decidedly charmed existence. In her late teens, she began a professional modeling career for such chic houses as Dior, Chanel, Versace, Givenchy and Yves Saint-Laurent, during which time she dated rock stars like Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. By ’97, she had switched to music — with a parallel pursuit in film acting — and after a series of French-language albums, she married no less than her country’s president, Nicholas Sarkozy, and moved into the Elysee Palace — with her own office — for five years. No longer the First Lady, she’s free to tour again, backing her recent English-language covers disc, “French Touch,” featuring songs she grew up on from ABBA, AC/DC and The Clash.

Sonically, France’s Ye-Ye singers in the ’60s were so far ahead of Britain and America.

They were quite modern, weren’t they? Even though now they sound kind of dated. But also, they would tour 360 days out of the year, just tour like crazy, and they were all really young. I was very much inspired by some of the singers from that time, especially Francoise Hardy, who made all these classic records back then.

Why did you trade fashion for music anyway?

I was modeling, you know, and I was probably 30 years old. And fashion quits you — there is absolutely an expiration date, even though my generation lasted longer. All my childhood, I was living with music. My father was a composer, and my mother was a pianist and she would rehearse at home all day. When I became a teenager, I got crazy about music and just listened to it all day. Then, someone gave me a guitar, and I started playing and writing my own songs.

Was your recording career on hold while you were First Lady?

No — I actually completed and released an album during that period. And everybody was mad, but hey — I couldn’t stop working, being who I am. But I couldn’t tour, because security-wise it would have been a nightmare. I traveled a little bit on a publicity tour. But of course, everybody just wanted to ask me about my husband.

As First Lady, did you ever sneak your CDs into any state functions?

Once. I did give my CDs to everyone at this meeting. But I was so embarrassed, because they all showed their copies to the TV reporters afterward. I had no idea they would do that. I guess I should have thought that one through.

Is it all relaxing Sunday croissants and crosswords for you and your husband now?

So nice. So nice to have days like that now, because I really like the quiet life.

Carla Bruni
Where: Bay Area Cabaret at the Venetian Room, Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23
Tickets: $90 to $125
Contact: (415) 775-5000, www.cityboxoffice.com

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